Book review: Searching for Captain Wentworth by Jane Odiwe
One of the fun things about being a reader today is sometimes getting the opportunity to meet a favourite author at a book event or getting to chat to them on their blog or through social networking sites. But if they’ve been dead for almost 200 years, this is sadly – and clearly! – no longer an option. You can only imagine what such a meeting or conversation would have been like… OR you can let someone else do that for you. Someone like Jane Odiwe, for example, as she’s now done for Jane Austen admirers everywhere in the excellent Searching for Captain Wentworth. Here’s a little about what happens in the book:
When aspiring writer, Sophie Elliot, receives the keys to the family townhouse in Bath, it’s an invitation she can’t turn down, especially when she learns that she will be living next door to the house Jane Austen lived in. On discovering that an ancient glove belonging to her mysterious neighbour, Josh Strafford, will transport her back in time to Regency Bath, she questions her sanity, but Sophie is soon caught up in two dimensions, each reality as certain as the other. Torn between her life in the modern world, and that of her ancestor who befriends Jane Austen and her fascinating brother Charles, Sophie’s story travels two hundred years across time, and back again, to unite this modern heroine with her own Captain Wentworth. Blending fact and fiction together, the tale of Jane Austen’s own quest for happiness weaves alongside, creating a believable world of new possibilities for the inspiration behind the beloved novel, Persuasion.
The prospect of an encounter with Captain Wentworth was enough to make me want to read Searching for Captain Wentworth. (I think I might have mentioned before that Persuasion is my favourite of all Jane Austen’s novels and the passionate sea-faring Captain Wentworth my favourite hero of hers.) However, there was even more to recommend this particular book to me: it has an aspiring writer as the heroine, and not only does she get to live in Bath (one of my favourite cities, even if it wasn’t ever one of Jane Austen’s) but this is also a time slip novel. Which means that Sophie, the aspiring writer, gets to visit not one, but TWO versions of Bath, and travels back from the modern-day city to that of Jane Austen’s time. Oh, and once there, she promptly meets one of its most famous residents – Jane Austen herself! And if it that wasn’t enough there was also a hint that the book would contain some real romance between Jane Austen and the man who might have provided the inspiration for Captain Wentworth. And let’s face it, who doesn’t sometimes want the hero of a book to actually come alive or to have been a real person? So, with all of this in the mix, Searching for Captain Wentworth could have been written with me in mind as its ideal reader.
That didn’t mean that I wasn’t also a little bit anxious before opening it. After all, not only did I have my own ideas about what Jane Austen might have been like, but I also felt the same way about her creation, Captain Frederick Wentworth, and any real-life inspiration I might meet between the pages of the book. And Persuasion is a book I know well. Incredibly well. I re-read it every couple of years and am word-perfect on certain sections.
Happily, I needn’t have worried. Jane Odiwe is every bit as much of a Jane Austen fan as I am and ‘my’ Captain Wentworth and Jane Austen’s original novel, Persuasion, and the author herself were in safe hands and treated with the care, love and respect they deserve. I didn’t have to read much of the book before I was completely hooked and wishing I were Sophie! There are some lovely details in the book about Bath and the flat where Sophie is staying, and Jane Odiwe brings both modern-day Bath and its period relation to life extremely well. She does the same when the action takes us – as it has to for any fan of the source novel – to Lyme Regis. My only quibble, and it is a very small one, is that everything is tied up a little too neatly at the end of the book.
I would happily recommend Searching for Captain Wentworth to anyone who has read and enjoys Jane Austen’s novels, Persuasion, in particular, for obvious reasons; to anyone who enjoys playing literary detective and finding clues pointing them towards the possible inspiration behind a novel and its characters; to anyone who enjoys time slips, especially between the modern day and the Regency period; or to any reader who gets a kick out of books about other books, and books within books, and ones in which real-life people and existing characters from books play their imagined parts alongside wholly new fictional characters. Searching for Captain Wentworth is a rewarding read on each of these levels. I enjoyed it immensely and, even if it won’t be quite as often as with the source material, I know that I’ll want to re-read this again in future.
Searching for Captain Wentworth by Jane Odiwe is available as a paperback and in ebook format from both Amazon UK and Amazon US. To find out more about the author, you can visit her Blog or Follow Jane on Twitter.